Snow in the Sahara Desert

On this Day:

In 2018, it snowed in the Sahara desert: 15 inches of snow were reported in Aïn Séfra, Northwest Algeria.

Aïn Séfra is a municipality in Naâma Province, Algeria. It is the district seat of Aïn Séfra District and it has a population of 47,415. It is the second most populated municipality in the province after Mécheria (per Wikipedia).

It’s not unlikely that it can snow in the Sahara.

The Sahara desert, the world’s largest hot desert, covers most of north Africa. It can receive waves of icy blasts, causing temperatures to drop to -2C.

One such incident was recorded by local photographer Karim Bouchetata, whose mesmerizing pictures captured blankets of snow close to the desert town of Ain Sefra in the Sahara in Algeria on 13 January 2018. The temperature there had dropped to -3C.

Ain Sefra, also known as “the gateway to the desert”, lies 1,000m above sea level and is surrounded by the Atlas Mountains.

Although it’s rare, this isn’t the first time that it has snowed in the Sahara desert.

Earlier Instances of Snow in the Sahara

The rare event has occurred four times in the past 42 years. The first incident of snowfall in the Sahara desert town of Ain Sefra was recorded in 1979, followed by December 2016 and January 2018, when the desert was reportedly covered by 16 inches of snow. The 2016 snowfall was captured by Landsat 7 satellite on December 19, 2016. The snowfall on January 7, 2018 was captured by the photographer, Bouchetata.

The population there is more accustomed towards enduring heat; it was not equipped to manage the sudden snowfall. As a result, roads, cars and buses were stranded on roads when they became icy, reported Forbes.

In all reported cases, the snow had dissipated within hours, returning the desert to its sandy shape and landscape.

Why Does It Snow in the Desert?

Deserts have extreme weather conditions. They are not called ‘deserts’ because they are hot, but because they are extremely dry. At night, this dry air loses its heat a lot quicker than humid air. As a result, the temperature in a desert can plummet during the night.

Wind moves clockwise around areas of high pressure in the Northern Hemisphere, which pulls cold Arctic air down south.

A high pressure formation in Europe can cause cold air from the Arctic to be pulled down, through southern Europe and to the Sahara desert. This cold air then surrounds Ain Sefra, which is very high, precipitating the snowfall. The higher the pressure formation in Europe, the farther south the air can travel into the Sahara (per

First, a Story:

What do you call a serious joke about the Sahara desert?

Dry humour…

Second, a Song:

BBC News stated: “The town of Ain Sefra, on the edge of the Sahara desert, was hit by icy weather last week – and even snow.

Snowfall is very rare in the Sahara, despite the fact that it can be cold at night – because there’s rarely enough water around for any kind of precipitation.”

Here is BBC News’ clip on snowfall in the Sahara – I hope you enjoy this!



Thought for the Day:

“If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.” – Milton Friedman

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Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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